Home & Garden Home This Pan Gets Better the More You Use It By Ilana Strauss Yale University University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Ilana Strauss is a journalist who began writing for the Treehugger family in 2015. Her work has been featured in The Atlantic, The Cut, New York Magazine, and other publications. our editorial process Ilana Strauss Updated November 27, 2018 ©. Teri Virbickis/Shutterstock Share Twitter Pinterest Email Home Green Living Pest Control Natural Cleaning DIY Family Thrift & Minimalism Sustainable Eating If you've never heard of cast iron skillets, it's time you were introduced. People have been using variations of these iron pans for thousands of years, and they're still the best pans you can buy. They're no secret, but I've met tons of people who had never heard of them, or never learned why they were so great. Cast iron skillets last longer, are healthier and just generally better than other kinds. Let me count the ways. They get better over time Many commercial pans nowadays are coated with some sort of finish that wears off over time. Eventually, you're left with an old pan that makes food burn. Cast iron skillets, however, aren't just coated with a cooking surface. They are the surface. The entire pan is made of iron, so it doesn't degrade over time. In fact, cast iron skillets actually get better the more you use them. As you do, the oil you use to cook seeps into the pan itself, making the surface less sticky. An old cast iron skillet cooks better than a new one. They're healthier Normal pans leach chemicals and degrade overtime. Eventually, the surface flakes off into your food, which is both gross and unhealthy. But cast iron skillets are made of ... say it with me ... iron. So instead of chemicals, iron flakes off into your food. And iron is actually good for you. "In addition to eating more iron-rich foods like meats, beans, and spinach, cooking in a cast iron pot is an easy way to boost your iron intake," says a writer from Columbia University. One Journal of the American Dietetic Association study even found that spaghetti sauce cooked in a cast iron skillet had almost 10 times more iron than sauce cooked in another skillet. So all you vegans, vegetarians, and well, just about everyone else, take note. They're versatile You can't put a regular pan in the oven. But cast iron skillets can handle the heat. You can even fry up some eggplant on the stove, add some veggies, and roast the whole thing in the oven if you want. They make food taste better Cast iron skillets have memories like elephants. They absorb the flavors of the food they're cooked in, giving all future dishes a much richer taste. They're better for the environment Disposable products turn natural resources into trash. But cast iron skillets can last pretty much forever, so they won't be filling up the ocean anytime soon. (Besides, if I were a fish, I'd rather have a hunk of iron in my ocean than a hunk of degrading plastic.) They're not expensive These are pretty much the highest quality pans out there, so you'd think they'd be pricey. But they're not. I bought mine for $11. And they last a lifetime, so I don't have to buy replacements like I would with regular pans. So that's why you should buy a cast iron skillet. If you do, or end up cooking with a friend's, just know they require a little extra care than regular pans. Soaping a cast iron skillet down or throwing it in the dishwasher is a great way to get the pan's owner mad at you.